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Hard questions, difficult choices Whether UAW will strike remains the top concern

>Q: Delphi Corp. asked a bankruptcy judge Friday to invalidate its labor contracts. Does that mean the United Auto Workers and other unions at Delphi will go on strike?

A: We won't know the answer for a while. Delphi is in bankruptcy, so Judge Robert Drain must rule on Delphi's request. He has scheduled a May 9-10 hearing to consider it. The UAW has threatened to strike if its contract is thrown out.

>Q: How does Delphi's plan to close 21 of its 29 U.S. plants affect contract talks?

A: It could change everything. Delphi says the plan is necessary for it to emerge from bankruptcy, but the UAW has said the plan could stall all talks.

>Q: How did Delphi arrive at this point?

A: The company filed for bankruptcy in October, after losing nearly $750 million in the first half of 2005. Robert S. "Steve" Miller, Delphi's CEO, said Delphi needs to slash wages and benefits to compete globally.

>Q: What are the pay issues that workers are reacting to?

A: Delphi said it wants to cut wages from $27 an hour to about $16. It also offered UAW workers $50,000 each as an incentive to take the pay cut. Both offers were contingent on GM's help. Without that, wages would be cut to about $12 an hour. The plan also calls for freezing pensions and switching to a contributory plan.

The UAW has rejected the offer.

>Q: Wouldn't it be better to take an offer than to go on strike?

A: Some workers blame management for the company's troubles and are willing to face a strike and the damage it would do rather than take huge pay and benefit cuts.

>Q: What are the bankruptcy court judge's options?

A: The judge could agree to grant Delphi's request to close plants, throw out its labor contracts and impose lower wages. But the judge also could direct the parties to keep talking.

>Q: How would the UAW call a strike, if it comes to that?

A: The union would first take a strike vote at Delphi plants around the country. If the membership authorizes a work stoppage, union leaders have the power to declare a strike.

>Q: What would be the local ripple effect of a Delphi strike?

A: Analysts say a strike would rapidly lead to the shutdown of General Motors, since GM relies so heavily on Delphi for parts. Delphi was part of GM until it was spun off from GM in 1999. Analysts say a prolonged strike at Delphi could push GM toward bankruptcy.

>Q: What is at stake locally?

A: Delphi employs 3,800 people in Lockport; GM employs 2,500 at the Powertrain plant in the Town of Tonawanda. Other area companies, including American Axle and Manufacturing -- which employs 2,600 at three local plants count on GM as a major customer.

>Q: If there is a strike, how long could GM stay in business?

A: One financial analyst thinks a Delphi strike would cost GM $7 billion to $8 billion in the first two months. Since GM has about $20 billion in cash, a long strike could push the world's largest automaker into bankruptcy.

>Q: If there is a strike, could replacement workers be hired?

A: That is always an option for companies, although sometimes violent confrontations can result. Replacement workers were used at Caterpillar during a 17-month UAW strike that ended in late 1995.

-- Matt Glynn

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